Updating your Will can be just as (possibly more) important than ensuring you have one in the first place.
Celebrities are not immune from this either, take for example the ‘out of date’ Will of Heath Ledger.
Everyone knows they should have a Will. Whether everyone actually has one is a different thing altogether. Whether it be apathy, laziness or fear of death, an alarmingly large number of adults still do not have a Will.
In certain circumstances it can be even more dangerous to have a Will that is out of date. I’ve seen some so old, that the guardians chosen for minor children is irrelevant; because those very children are now aged in their 40’s!
A more serious consequence arises if a Will is not updated to take note of, or cater for, a change in personal circumstances.
Heath Andrew Ledger died tragically on 22 January 2008 aged 28 following accidental intoxication from prescription drugs. A few months before his death, Ledger had finished filming his (well-deserved) Academy Award winning performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. After performing roles in Australian television and film during the 1990s, Ledger left for the United States in 1998 to further develop his film career starring in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), The Patriot (2000), A Knight’s Tale (2001), Ned Kelly (2003) and Brokeback Mountain (2005).
In 2004 Ledger met and began dating actress Michelle Williams, and their daughter, Matilda Rose was born on 28th October 2005. Ledger and Williams ended their relationship in 2007 but remained on good terms until his death.
Despite his celebrity status, wealth of press agents, professional assistants, financial advisors and hangers-on; no one deemed it worthwhile (or if they did he didn’t listen/act) to update his Will. The last one prepared in 2003 did not include his daughter.
A Will remains valid unless it is found to be a forgery or completed in circumstances that give rise to a serious suspicion that the Will maker was not of sound mind when signing it. That is to say, that despite an obvious omission, the Will, on the face of it, is valid and the directions that appear therein must be carried out.
Celebrity Gossip website TMZ obtained a copy of Ledger’s Will and can be viewed here.
The Will divides what was likely to be a very large estate between his sisters and parents.
By all accounts, it appears that the lawyers were not called in, as so commonly occurs in Hollywood (perhaps the Aussie influence). The Ledger family have openly admitted they will be providing for both Matilda Rose and Michelle Williams in whatever way they can.
It is worth noting that if the Ledger family were not so generous, then an inheritance claim would have been the likely outcome. In this situation, Michelle Williams, as the guardian of young Matilda Rose, would be left to take action in Court, suggesting that Ledger’s daughter was left without adequate provision.
Here is a fun fact. If Ledger died without a Will at all, his daughter Matilda Rose would have been the sole beneficiary of his estate (assuming an estate distributed in South Australia). An issue would arise as to who, until his daughter turned 18, would control the fund. However, an out of date Will can have even more serious consequences than having no Will at all.
It is imperative that you update and regularly review your Will and other associated documents after any change of personal circumstances including marriage, divorce, new partners, children, death in the family or the purchase/sale of significant assets.